Just ten or fifteen years ago, the idea that two pieces might be enough to fill an album of Howard Skemptons music would have seemed astonishing, but here are two works, each over 30 minutes long. Skempton takes on Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and presents it sparsely for solo baritone (Roderick Williams) and small chamber ensemble (BCMG).
This anthology of devotional music from 18th-century Venice and Naples offers an interesting and varied programme. Best known is Pergolesi’s Stabat mater, but the settings by Domenico Scarlatti and Bononcini stand well in comparison. The motets by Lotti, Caldara and Alessandro Scarlatti are real discoveries; Norrington’s performances of the latter are particularly fine. Guest’s Pergolesi suffers from a focus of sound which makes the interpretation seem somewhat generalised. However, all these performances give pleasure, while the music is melodically fresh and rhythmically vital.-Terry Barfoot
Organist Howard Wales is probably best known for his association with the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia. But, he also stepped quite firmly on the terra firma of jazz funk via his playing on “Music of El Topo”, and with this private solo lp from 1976. The album's almost a jazz session - in that it's mostly instrumental, and features a range of jazz musicians joining in with Howard's work on a variety of keyboards - but there's also maybe more of a progressive rock vibe to the whole thing overall, given the song structure, and the occasional vocals from Bill Champlin - who also plays guitar on the record. Other noteworthy guests include Pat Gleason on synth, Pete Escovedo on percussion, and Gary Barone on trumpet.